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Champions Crowned in Sheets of Rain at Petit Le Mans

October 4, 2015

Terrible weather forced IMSA’s Race Control’s hand for the final round of the 2015 Tudor United SportsCar Championship. Conditions that were deemed too dangerous by many drivers much earlier than the officials make the action on track match the excitement from the championship shake-up. The factory Porsche team competing in the GTLM class of the field has had somewhat of a hot streak in the second half of the season. They proved today that it has been no fluke. Today’s Petit Le Mans was the first in the history of the sport that a car not in the top class has won overall. Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, and Richard Lietz were the first drivers ever to drive a GT car past a prototype in a competitive lap and garner the race win. In the worst of conditions, finishing driver, Nick Tandy was lapping multiple seconds faster than the fastest prototype machine!

Already close heading into Road Atlanta, the Prototype division championship shifted hands multiple times. Repeat champions, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi didn’t win the race, but found the top of the points for the second year in a row. The Action Express No. 5 team scored just three points more than second place, Racing’s Michael Valiente and Richard Westbrook. The rainy conditions seemed to be the biggest part of the No. 90 team’s inability to capitalize on their Petit Le Mans pole. The No. 31 Action Express team of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran finished the race and championship in third place. The partnership between the Whelen sponsored team and Action Express has produced a great 2015 season.

Chevrolet’s dominance of the Prototype Engine Manufacturer’s championship could not be matched by any other marque. Chevrolet’s eight class wins earned them 344 manufacturer’s points, 26 more than second place Ford. Honda scored 300 points for the season, earning them third while Mazda and BMW were fourth and fifth.

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CORE Autosport’s strong showing all year brought them the team championship in the LMPC class as well as  driver’s championship for Jon Bennet and Colin Braun. This championship comes to them despite finishing fourth in the race, even after a hard impact brought an end to the day. The No. 54 team scored a total of 318 points, only five more than second place, Mike Guasch and Tom Kimber-Smith with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports. Guasch and Kimber-Smith’s best effort of a race win couldn’t secure the championship for them. Rumors circulating in the paddock reference the team’s plans on moving to the prototype class next year. At 301 points, Chris Cumming and Bruno Junqueira finished on the championship podium for the No. 11 RSR Racing team. Mikhail Goikhberg finished the season in fifth with 285 points while  his No. 85 JDC Miller Motorsports team finished in fifth for the season. Renger van der Zande finished out the top five for the season with 268 points while his No. 8 Starworks Motorsport team finished fourth.

The GT Le Mans class has been one of the most talked about classes of the year. Factory efforts from Porsche, Chevrolet, and and Ferrari have sparked some of the most heated discussions about BOP and competition. As mentioned above, Pilet’s dominant performance secured him the GTLM drivers and team championship with the No. 911 Porsche North America Racing team. At 315 points, Pilet was scored 10 points over second place teammates, Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner with the No. 25 BMW Team RLL. Third place went to the No. 3 Corvette Racing team of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia with 295 points. Just two points back from the Corvette was the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer. The last team in the top five was John Edwards and Lucal Luhr’s No. 24 sister BMW.

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GTLM hosts probably the most important manufacturer’s championship in all of IMSA. Porsche secured a first place with 325 points, six over second place BMW. Chevrolet managed third with 304 points while Ferrari finished fourth in the championship, two points back from Chevrolet. It comes to no surprise, based on results, that the Porsche team and manufacturer secured the titles they did. It’s sure to spark even more debate and complaint from the ‘Vette-heads as we’ve already seen petitions for a lack of fair balance and performance. The debate is sure to continue into 2016.

A surprise championship effort in GTD came from the seemingly unlikely Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler. The team came into the weekend third in points, but after unsatisfactory finished from the TRG-AMR and Paul Miller Racing, they eked out the win with 281 points. With a successful Pirelli World Challenge season under her belt, Christina Nielsen was almost able to win her second GT championship of the year, but missed out by a mere two points. The team’s ninth place finish in the race was only good for third in the championship. Just two points back from Nielsen, the No. 48 Audi of Dion von Moltke and Christopher Haase filled the last spot on the podium. This was another team that was hoping for a better finish in the final round, but lady luck would not be so helpful.

Ferrari narrowly stole the Manufacture’s Championship from Audi in the GTD field, by one point. With Audi earning 306 points, Porsche found themselves in the last available spot on the podium at 304 points. BMW followed closely with a total of 298 points.

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The 2015 Tudor United SportsCar Championship did not disappoint. We saw close efforts from a wide variety of manufacturers, drivers, and nationalities. The highly diverse championship returns in 2016 reborn as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a new title sponsor, new regulations, and plenty of reason for fans to want to be back at the tracks. The 2016 schedule kicks off wit the annual test session dubbed the Roar Before the Rolex 24 on January 8 – 10, followed by the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona on January 30-31. The Slipstream Network is excited to bring more coverage of North America’s premiere endurance racing series through the off-season and into 2016. Be sure to follow and @SlipstreamNET for the latest coverage.

As a mechanical engineer, Dusty’s passion is for sports cars and endurance racing. In his opinion, there’s nothing better than a race car closely based on a model that you can go out and buy from the manufacturer showroom. He’s very particular about his writing utensils and appreciates a great, cruelty free pomade.

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